Tag Archives: clydebank

running on empty.

(Post by Mark Arbuckle of Glasgow – May 2022)

(Clydebank in the late ’50s.)
(Opposite angle of the same street in Clydebank, taken in the early ’70s)

These two photographs were posted to a Facebook page devoted to the town of Clydebank .

They immediately stirred up a few memories of myself and friends playing around this area in the late sixties.

The area beyond the building on the far right hand side was a bomb site left by The Clydebank Blitz in March 1941. We used to play in it when I was about 10 years old.

The stone foundations of the long gone tenements were still there and we used to jump on and off them reenacting scenes from a cowboy or space adventure film we’d watched at the ABC Minors the previous Saturday.

I slipped and fell on a shard of glass. One of our group said that it was the actual window glass from the 1941 bombing….but it was more likely a smashed Eldorado bottle!  

Anyway I got a deep cut on my left palm and there was a lot of blood. 

It added realism to our games for a while but eventually I had to go home to get it seen to……and I still have the scar!

On the left of the pic where the van is parked was Branks General Store. I was rarely in it but I do vividly remember the story about a man, that lived in one of the tenements close by, that had flashed/molested/ abducted/a young girl!!!….. everytime the story was told it was exaggerated and embellished!

It was probably an urban myth but we always ran past it anyway just in case!

My last memory also involves running…..A LOT of running!

There was a local guy, Joe, with learning difficulties, who lived in the local Children’s Home. 

One hot summer’s morning our 5 strong group were gathered on the corner deciding how to spend our day when we spotted Joe about 200 yards away at the top of the road. 

Someone shouted  at Joe….It would’ve been something innocuous like ‘Whit ur ye daein’ oot?’

Joe was about 14/15, small but very powerfully built!
He started to run towards us like a bull charging with his head down! 

We all took off down the road towards the school.

We reached the bus stop, in the pic, and still Joe chased us! Maybe he just wanted to join in with us but we weren’t taking any chances. So we ran!

We were hoping the bus would come but no such luck!

We continued to run up Second Avenue past Branks shop and still Joe gained on us!

We were all really struggling now with ‘stitches’ and shin splints…..the curse of growing 10/11 year olds ….and still Joe came! 

Eventually we risked a glance back and Joe had stopped about 50 yards behind us and had turned around and was walking back towards the shop! 

Had he continued he’d have caught us in the next minute or two! We were all exhausted and vowed never to taunt Joe again!

But we never saw him again…maybe he was moved to another home?

He was some runner!!! 

Teenage kicks- Pauline Allan

Pauline Nuremberg 1974

Name: Pauline (O’Rourke) Allan

Where were you brought up: Dalmuir/Clydebank

Secondary school: St Columba’s Clydebank/Notre Dame Dumbarton

Best mates at school: Being the school captain at St C’s  who sang, played clarinet, piano and classical guitar, not many.

Funniest memory from school: On prefect duty at lunchtime found some girls smoking in the toilets. One came towards me pushing her face into mine “You’re claimed! ” To which I replied “ Do you know you have skelly eyes?”

First holiday with your mates in UK: 1972  summer music trip to Pirniehall, Croftamie with Mae, Eunice and many others including a certain Mr Allan. Played Mozart and Vaughan Williams by day, listened to Rod Stewart and the Beatles by night while watching Brian Lynch doing his Thunderbird puppet impressions. 

Pauline in blue suit and John draped over another lass during their early swinging phase
Pauline, Eunice & Mae before they formed Bananarama…

First holiday with your mates abroad: 1974 music trip to Nuremberg, Germany on a chartered coach from Glasgow, with the best of Abba and The Byrds serenading us all the way because our driver was a mad fan. Our German host in Nuremberg welcomed us with “ I hope you are all feeling yourselves at home” as we settled into two weeks of rehearsals and concerts.

Young musicians feeling themselves at home

Thinking we were heading off to perform one day, we found ourselves at the 56,000 capacity Waldstadion stadium in Frankfurt.
The National Wind Band of Scotland once filled Musselborough Town hall to capacity but this would have been a very big ask.

Pauline – an early ringleader in the Tartan Army

We were slightly relieved and very excited to learn we were there to watch the Scotland v Yugoslavia World Cup game, and not to perform.

What was your first job: Instrumental music teacher for Dunbartonshire and Glasgow Schools from 1978 until 1986.

Who was your musical hero in 70s: Lots of musical heroes including Paul Simon, James Taylor, David Bowie, John Martyn.

Rhymin’ Simon
Thin White Duke
The great John Martyn

What was your favourite single: You’ve Got A Friend, James Taylor.

Favourite album: Bookends, Simon & Garfunkel

First gig: Me!! – 1977 at the Ardencaple Folk Club in Helensburgh.
Liam Malone ( honestly! ) an old school friend, invited me to appear at an open mic session. First paying gig.

Favourite movie in 70s: Not exactly my favourite but saw the first Star Wars movie in 1978 at a drive-in, Oakville, Ontario with my Canadian cousins.

Who was your inspiration in 70s: Jimmy Hill my clarinet teacher. Not the pointy chinned sports pundit.

Posters on your wall: Art Nouveau reproduction adverts.

What do you miss most from the 70s: Shopping with mum in Glasgow on Saturday’s. The Danish Food Centre, Epicures, Habitat, Fergusons. Vesta instant meals

What advice would you give your 14yr old self: Don’t be afraid to take up something as uncool as the clarinet because you’ll make a career out of it!

70s pub session: Paul Simon, James Taylor, Carole King and my mum at the Overflow, Yorkhill.

The Overflow – Yorkhill
Pauline today

The Castle, the Gypsy and the Fire Dance

Mark Arbuckle: Glasgow 2021

Now this might sound like an unwritten Harry Potter novel but with apologies to Ms. Rowling these events are true and took place a decade or so before she conjured up the young wizard.

Names have been withheld to protect our idiocy!

It all began on a cold but bright Sunday morning in March 1974. A group of around a dozen teenagers, including myself, gathered at the Radnor Hotel on Kilbowie Road, Clydebank to begin our quest to the mythical Mugdock Castle.
We were all suitably dressed for our adventure….

Flared Jeans (more on them later) T-shirts, Denim Jackets and the obligatory Baseball Boots (Basies) or Gola Trainers.
All perfect for the 8°C weather!

The girls had been tasked with supplying the food and the guys with procuring whatever alcohol that they could get their underage hands on. One clever chap (I or C) also brought his battery powered cassette player and a selection of classic 70’s rock music….Purple, Yes, ELP and the mighty Zep

Hoisting our duffle bags we set off and quickly decided that if we were going to hitchhike it would be best if we split up into twos or threes.
We reached Kilbowie roundabout and already a few lucky couples had managed to get a lift. The rest of us continued to walk towards Hardgate and onwards to Milngavie.

MK and I finally got a lift from a lorry driver, who, obviously concerned for our safety, put his large left arm around both of us! 
I risked a glance at MK’s face and she was as shocked as I was!
Thankfully it was a short journey and he dropped us off half a mile from the Mugdock Park entrance. 

The first thing we saw, apart from trees, was an ornately painted Gypsy caravan close to a narrow stream. The resident wasn’t around but it was easy to imagine an old, grey haired, shawl wearing, woman with a stunningly beautiful daughter remarkably similar to Cher singing Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves…..well easy for me to imagine this scene….not too sure about MK who was probably still thinking about our over friendly lorry driver!


We reached the Castle in about 20 minutes.
Remember this was 1974, long before Mugdock had a visitor centre, gift shop or cafe. 
Most of our merry gang were already setting up camp at the derelict castle, swapping stories about their individual hitchhiking journeys.

A couple of the guys had brought fishing lines, presumably to catch their supper in the lake adjacent to the Castle.

However there was one little problem ….the lake was frozen solid!
The fishing line weights merely hit the ice and skidded 10 yards away.

Undaunted by this setback, large stones were launched onto the ice which eventually created a couple of holes. Now the only problem was aiming the fishing line weights at said holes!
After several attempts our ‘would be’ Captain Birdseye’s gave up completely.

Couples were exploring the darker recesses of the castle, which are sadly closed to the public nowadays…. probably just as well!
The music was on, a good fire was lit and everybody was enjoying a drink, a sandwich, or a sausage roll.


The temperature had dropped and the fire was kept going with bits of wood, twigs and leaves and, to howls of derision, a quarter bottle of vodka!

My great friend Peter (who is sadly no longer with us )  moved closer to the fire, enjoying it’s warmth. Suddenly he leapt to his feet screaming and kicking his legs in the air in a demented dance around the flames!
The rest of us laughed, hooted and clapped at his crazy antics.
He then shocked everybody by kicking his basies off and dragged his jeans down!…. 


Now the fashion at the time was to take an ordinary pair of jeans and open the side seams 15″ from the ankles and then plead with your mum to sew in a triangular piece of coloured cloth (mine was yellow) thus making them flared and fashionable. 

Dancing Peter had done this himself, but instead of sewing he had stapled the insert to the denim!
When he sat too close to the fire the staples had melted into his skin causing his mad Fire Dance!

It was now getting dark and had also started to snow.
Peter for one, was grateful, rubbing handfuls of the stuff onto his burnt flesh.
We packed up ready to head home, but for some unknown reason instead of heading back the way we had come, towards Cher’s Gypsy caravan, we started to walk in the opposite direction??

The snow was getting very heavy now, which actually helped us to see as there was no other light and of course nobody had brought a torch!


We were making decent progress when the gradient suddenly slanted downward causing 3 or 4 people to slip and fall in the snow.

One poor guy (MG) got back up only to fall again over a small ‘hillock’ which bleated in surprise and moved off followed by a few of it’s woolly friends! 

We continued slip- slidin’ away on this downward slope for about half an hour until we entered thick woodland. We could now see streetlights about a mile ahead so had no option but to head for them.

We eventually emerged onto a farm track with houses about 500 yards ahead. Everybody was muddy, shivering and scratched from branches and brambles in the wood. A few of the girls had started to cry (probably guys too) and everybody was cold, hungry and miserable.

I was ‘volunteered’ to go to the first house to ask where we were.
A woman answered and was shocked at my disheveled appearance before politely telling me ‘You’re in Milngavie son’.
I pointed to the sad huddle of my companions and asked if there was a chip shop nearby and to our delight she said there was, just a few hundred yards from her house.

This news lifted our spirits and we trudged off to find it.
Cobbling our money together we had enough to buy three fish suppers to share….. they were ravenously devoured!

I had also ensured that I kept back enough change to use in the phone-box next to the chippy.

I phoned my Dad who voicing a combination of anger and relief agreed to take myself and three more of our motley crew home.
Two others followed suit and got family members to come to their rescue.

I don’t remember much about what followed as nobody really talked about it at school the next week.
I think we all realised how daft we’d been and how fortunate we were that nobody had got hypothermia or been badly injured on the journey home.

We were all a bit sheepish….

Especially MG – who still claims that he ‘fell over’ that one, on that snow covered hillside!

knockout lunch

George Cheyne: Glasgow March 2021

When I first started work I was like a kid in a sweetie shop..a chip shop..a sandwich shop..or a baker’s shop.

Joining the big, bad world of full-time employment in 1975 gave me the chance to break away from school dinners to give my taste buds a real treat.

Well, when I say a treat…I mean a full-on assault from a shed-load of unhealthy carbs and calories. Or lunch, as we call it in the west of Scotland.

Our office was right across from the gates of John Brown Engineering in Clydebank so the area was well served by food takeaways.

In fact, we were spoiled for choice. Two doors down from us was a sandwich shop, next to that was a chippie and round the corner was Greggs and City Bakeries. Decisions, decisions…

This new taste of freedom lark came at a price – not so much a financial one as a health one. But at 16 you don’t care about that because you’re invincible, right? 

The sandwich shop did a roaring trade at lunchtime despite having a menu that leaned heavily towards the minimalistic.

There was homemade soup (always lentil), made-to-order rolls – cheese and tomato, cheese and ham or ham and cheese – and, as an afterthought, some salad.

The only other things for sale in the shop were chocolate bars – Mars, Twix or Bar Six – and cans of Coke or Irn-Bru.

That was your lot. It was a stack-’em-high, sell-’em-cheap strategy that worked particularly well for the shipyard workers.

If you timed your run badly, there would be a massive queue or – worse still – only ham and salad left.

Faced with both these unpalatable options, you always had the chippie next door with its “lunchtime specials” menu.

It was a cunning marketing ploy to lure you in. Once inside, you soon found out the “lunchtime specials” were exactly the same as the “teatime specials” and the never-advertised late-night specials. 

It was a chip shop, plain and simple. Now I’m pretty sure no-one was expecting to walk in and find quinoa on the menu, but you’d be within your rights to think there might be something “special”.

Turns out that was covered off by the fish suppers having only one bit of fish instead of two. Some concession, huh?

No matter, they did a particularly-mean roll and chips which always tasted pretty special.

Round the corner at Greggs, the house speciality was a roll and mince. It might not sound that appealing, but somehow it worked.

The only drawback was trying to eat it on the move. If you did that, you ran the risk of mince oozing out on to your clothes.

The nearby City Bakeries sold those pies with mashed potatoes and beans on top, a real delicacy in this part of the world.

I could never really commit to them after watching a guy in work place two of the pies in a buttered roll, pour tomato sauce on top, squash it all down…and take a giant bite.

It’s an image I can never unsee. Bon appetit!

court in the act (part 2)

George Cheyne: Glasgow, March 2021

She was going to have her day in court, there was no question about that.

Dressed up to the nines, her hair piled high and her heels even higher, Linda McCaffrey click-clacked her way across the wooden floor to the witness box at Clydebank District Court.

She looked a nailed-on cert to win any Bet Lynch-lookalike contest – right down to the leopard-print jacket that the Coronation Street star used to wear.

Mrs McCaffrey, looking slightly miffed her big moment was taking place in front of an audience of less than ten, promised to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

She was in court – which sat in Clydebank Town Hall – to give her account of the night her husband was arrested for some street rammy or other.

And what an account…she delivered her lines to perfection during a gentle interrogation by her husband’s solicitor. But guess what? Her version didn’t tally with what the police officers had said previously.

Step forward the procurator fiscal – no stranger to a bit of showboating himself – and he went after her like a man possessed.

But Mrs McCaffrey refused to buckle under the pressure and stuck resolutely to her story.

Time for a bit of gamesmanship.
“So, Mrs McCaffrey, it’s your evidence that your husband was merely making his way home and had absolutely nothing to do with the disturbance?”

“Aye, that’s how I remember it, love.”

“And you don’t recall seeing your husband having an altercation with the police officers?”

“Aye, that’s right, love.”

“Mrs McCaffrey…I’m not in love with you, I never have been in love with you and I have no intention of ever being in love with you, so don’t call me love. Is that clear?”

“Yes, love.”

“Your honour, I must ask you to warn this witness about her conduct here today.”

At this point the Justice of the Peace looked up sternly from the bench to say: “Mrs McCaffrey, you have to be mindful that this is a court of law and behave accordingly.”

“Right you are, doll…”

This was the kind of exchange that brightened up the dull tedium of covering district court cases in the late 1970s for The Clydebank Press.

I had a ringside seat to see justice dispensed at the fag end of Scotland’s legal system – a window into the small-potato court cases which are the lifeblood of any local newspaper.

And if you had characters like Mrs McCaffrey in court, then it made sifting through the minutiae that little bit more enjoyable.

If not, you played courtroom bingo. This involved certain words or phrases to be mentally ticked off during a police officer’s evidence.

You were looking for all the usual contenders – “locus”, “proceeded”, “disorderly manner”, “fear and alarm”, “refused to desist” and “arrested”.

Sometimes you could get a full house without the officer pausing for breath.

That was the thing about police evidence, the officers always seemed so well prepped and gave their version of events using exactly the same phrases.
Funny that, eh?

However, I was there once when two policemen went completely off script.
Or, more accurately, one of them did.

PC 1 regaled us with a tale of how he and PC 2 were on patrol when they saw the accused acting in a disorderly manner (tick) and then hurl a bottle towards two youths and challenge them to fight. He identified the accused in the dock by pointing at him.

Bang to rights, I’d say. The defending solicitor poked around a bit, trying to spot any weakness, before asking PC 1 if he remembers what arm the accused used to chuck the bottle.

The officer doesn’t miss a beat before saying: “His right.”

The solicitor was obviously hoping to plant a seed of doubt in the prosecution case if somehow PC 2 answered differently.
In the end, he got far more than he could have hoped for.

Up stepped PC 2, who also identified the accused, to tell us how he was on patrol with PC 1 when he saw the accused at the locus (tick) arguing with a woman, pushing her onto the road before punching her on the face.

The fiscal tried to pass it off as a mix-up and asked PC 2 if he’d like to refer to his notebook – code for you’ve made a boo-boo – but the defence lawyer was all over it and immediately asked the Justice of the Peace to acquit his client on the grounds that PC 2’s evidence clearly couldn’t be trusted.

The sitting JP agreed. He threw the case out, told the accused he was free to go and gave PC 2 a withering look before saying, rather caustically: “Maybe you’ll learn your lines a bit better next time.”

I suppose that’s what the court was – a stage for performers like police officers, fiscals, JPs, witnesses and the accused to strut their stuff as they delivered their lines.

And, believe me, there was a lot of over-acting going on.

I remember one fiscal used to ham it up big time when he was questioning police officers, making sure the JPs knew their evidence was sacrosanct.

To labour the point, he would invariably ask the officer if they were on duty that day, knowing full well they weren’t. And he’d follow up the inevitable reply with: “Ah, the court thanks you for coming here on your day off.”

The implication being that the officer was clearly the most credible of witnesses, if he was willing to give up his own precious free time just to be there.

This little act was repeated time after time and, as an unwritten rule, remained unchallenged by the defence lawyers – until one of them finally cracked.

Standing before an officer who had just been thanked for coming there that day, he told him: “So it’s your day off..well, in that case, you’ll be getting paid overtime. Maybe you should be thanking us.”

Lawyer exits stage left with a satisfied grin on his face.

court in the act (part 1)

By George Cheyne: Glasgow March 2021

It was the same ritual every Monday morning in that summer of 1976, ever since the “train incident” traumatised my mum.

She’d look me up and down as I was leaving for work, her eyes pleading with me once more… but this time with feeling.

“Make sure you’ve got your spare jacket and cap with you,” she’d say. Every-Bloody-Monday.

Admittedly, this piece of sage advice as I was heading out the door was hardly up there with: “Make sure you’ve got clean underwear on – you might get run over by a bus.”

But it meant everything to mum. She needed to know I’d packed the extra clothes as I headed off to Dumbarton Sheriff Court on Mondays to do my job as a 17-year-old cub reporter for a local newspaper.

This was the halcyon days of All The Presidents Men, the true-life movie about how reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein helped bring down the Nixon administration following the Watergate scandal.

However, mum’s inspiration for making sure I had a spare jacket and cap tucked away, lent itself more to 1960s Cold War spy dramas than a film about a 1970s newspaper exposé.

She had been jumpy ever since I was threatened by two thugs on the train back from Dumbarton after covering a court two months before – and insisted I take this cunning disguise along to avoid any repeat.

Monday mornings at the sheriff court was a regular gig for me because there were plenty of good news stories to be picked up for The Clydebank Press back then.

Anyone who had been banged up over the weekend in Clydebank would be taken to Dumbarton Sheriff Court for a plea hearing. Plead guilty and you were dealt with there and then, plead not guilty and a trial date was set.

I would go down there, ferret around in the clerk’s office to see what relevant cases were coming up and then take my front-row seat to watch the wheels of justice turn.

This particular day my two fellow train travellers had been in court to see their brother sent down for six months after a vicious street assault and had obviously been for a few cocktails to mull things over.

So far, so normal. But then fate put the three of us in the same carriage for the train journey back to Clydebank.

I recognised them straight away but thought no more about it as I began scribbling away in my notebook.

In hindsight, this wasn’t the smartest move I’ve ever made.

Two stops later the brothers sidled over to my seat and, with obvious intent, one slipped in beside me and the other across from me. Neat pincer movement, huh?

The one opposite said: “I know you…you were in court this morning. What paper do you work for?”

By now – too late, of course – I realised the folly of using my notebook on the train, so I plumped for my best completely-baffled look as I tried to convince them they had the wrong guy.

“Don’t gie’s it – I recognise yir jaiket,” said my interrogator, “Who do you work for?”

The jacket reference threw me. Why did he pick up on that..did it stand out that much..what was wrong with it..did I still have the receipt? So many questions, so little time.

I’d run out of wriggle room. In my head, I was going to say: “Bob Woodward, Washington Post…how can I help you?” But out my mouth came: “Clydebank Press.”

The glance between the two brothers told me I’d made a big mistake giving out this information so freely. What was I thinking?

Anyway, it became pretty obvious what the two of them were thinking. “We don’t want that story about our brother going in the paper,” said my opposite number as he casually flicked a Bic lighter on and off.

I considered putting across a measured argument about freedom of the press, how we were the eyes and ears of the public and how justice had to be seen to be done – but that self-righteous stance only lasted about a nano-second.

Understandably, thoughts of self-preservation kicked in instead and I mumbled something about how that decision wasn’t up to me.

“Aye, but if you don’t write anything then it cannae  go in,” came the reply.

Trust me to get accosted by two guys who seem to have thought the whole thing through to a logical conclusion. Woodward and Bernstein never had to put up with this shit.

The stand-off – and I use the term loosely because in reality it was two twenty-something hard men going up against a teenager who had no aces up the sleeve of his distinctive-looking jacket – ended when the train pulled in to Dalmuir Station.

They were getting off and I was staying on. There was still time for the obligatory last word from the so-far silent brother: “No story, right! Remember…we know where you work.”

The point was rammed home as he jabbed my arm for every one of the last five syllables. 

Message understood. I got off at the next stop, trudged into the office and unloaded the whole dilemma to my boss.

Only he didn’t see it as a dilemma. This was the 70s, the publish-and-be-damned era, so he said: “We can’t give in to these people, George. Write it up big.” Then an afterthought: “Mmm, I can see how the jacket gave you away.”

That jacket again. Clark Kent never had to put up with this shit.

The story went in the paper that Friday and I spent a lot of time looking over my shoulder whenever I left the office – but thankfully nothing ever came of the threats.

Two things happened after that.
I passed my driving test a few months later so that meant I could hightail it out of Dodge every Monday in safety…and I never wore that bloody jacket again!